Engaging Montessori Activities to Try at 12-Months Old

There are so many wonderful Montessori activities to offer at 12 months old. Things like a ball tracker or musical instruments. Preparing your home environment with engaging Montessori-inspired activities is a great way to support a young child’s development. Here are the best Montessori activities for a 12-month-old baby or young toddler. 

Montessori Toys at 12-Months Old

This is a list of some of the favorite things we had on our low shelf throughout the twelfth month. Many of these still are very loved beyond 12 months old and will continue to be rotated regularly.  

Peg Pop-Up Toy 

The peg pop-up toy has been on and off the shelf many times over the last few months. Up until now, it was used more for grasping, but now it is being explored in the way it was designed! This is a great activity for young toddlers and older toddlers. I had my nephews who are over 2 years old and they loved this toy. The way the guys pop up out of their spots is so exciting. This toy focuses on fine motor control. I remember the day my son connected the dots that if he pushes down and releases on the guy, he will pop up! This may be my favorite Montessori baby toys. 

Montessori Pop-up Toy

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Object Permanence Box and Ball Tracker

The object permanence box and the ball tracker are activities that lend themselves to repetition and excitement. They both require the same skill of placing a ball in a hole. Once I saw that this was something my boys could do with the object permanence box I knew it was time to introduce the ball tracker. I have seen some babies ready for the ball tracker around 10 months, and for my boys, I knew it would be a little bit later based on what they were showing me. Child development follows a natural progression but every baby will be different in their timing of things.

The ball tracker is a great activity becuase it requires the whole body. They are squatting down to grab the ball from the base, standing up to put it into the hole, and repeating over and over again! 

Musical Instruments 

Offering musical instruments that make different sounds is perfect for this stage of development. These are a few of the ones we loved and I will link a few more ideas and suggestions.

Pat Bells 

These pat bells are perfect for little hands to make music with. I set them up on a tray and showed my twins how to use them. They can pat the top and make the bell ring. Each bell is a different note. The set is one octave. This will be a material that will last for many years I can tell. It came with a little song booklet as well which will be perfect as they grow into wanting to play some songs they know with the bells.

Xylophone 

A xylophone is another great material for enhancing your music collection. This xylophone has the notes named on each bar, and the colors coordinate to the pat bells, which I like. 

Xylophone and a jar with two plastic mallets

Other Instrument Recommendations 

Coin Drop with Drawer

The coin drop will follow after the object permanence box. It is a much more challenging puzzle comparatively because it requires the child to have the disk in the proper position for it to go through the slot. Opening and closing the drawer is a fun point of interest as well. You could easily DIY this activity as well. Just use some poker chips and cut a slit into a shoe box or container.

A tray with a wooden box that has a drawer with a wooden knob. A slit in the top of the wooden box and a dish of wooden coins.

This activity requires lots of fine motor work and problem-solving skills to get the coin into the box. I noticed one day it causing more frustration than enjoyment so I switched it back out with the object permanence box. Observation is key to knowing what is working and what may need to wait a few more weeks. Especially with an activity like this, make sure to model how to use it and repeat this often.

Wooden Knobbed Puzzles

Finding some quality puzzles with large knobs is ideal for this age. They can grasp the knob to pull the puzzle piece out. At this stage, they are more interested in pulling the pieces out of the frame rather than replacing them. I find my role often is to reset the puzzle pieces so that they can repeat the process. 

Wooden fruit puzzle with wooden knobs. puzzle pieces of an apple, orange, banana, pear and grapes

Cubes on a Dowel 

Cubes on a dowel is a perfect activity for refining their pincer grip as well as working on stacking. This activity also works on hand-eye coordination to get the cube posted onto the dowel. 

Treasure Basket

You can keep a small basket with various household objects. You could coordinate the baskets by theme or color if you so desire. Often the everyday items are most interesting to our babies anyways.

Practical Life Activities

So much of our day is spent doing practical daily life activities. We can begin to invite our baby into our work. Depending on if your child is walking at this point may affect how they can participate in various actvities. My twins were not walking at 12 months old, so I will share some things we did and the best ways to involve a non-walking baby as well as some ideas for involving a walking baby into practical life activities. 

Self Care 

There are so many opportunities for involving your baby when it comes to self-care tasks. They can hold their toothbrush while you apply some toothpaste for them. You help them to brush their teeth and odds are they will catch on and know to bring their toothbrush to their mouth. Offering a hairbrush is another task that they likely can practice all by themselves. You can set up a small self-care area in their bedroom or the bathroom. Hand washing can be another opportunity to involve them.

After meals, I will hold out the washcloth and wait for them to bring their hand to the cloth for cleaning up. I am still very much directing after-meal clean-up at this stage, but it is good to ask for their involvement and cooperation during the process.

Getting dressed at 12 months looks like me putting the shirt on their head and them helping to pull it down over their head. I direct their arm and they push it through the sleeve. We use a dressing chair when they are willing, and I will sportscast putting their pants on each leg. I ask them to stand up or offer them my hand as support. I talk about how I am pulling up their pants. It can be very helpful to have a dressing chair or a railing for them to hold onto if they aren’t yet stable on two feet alone. 

You can also set up a Montessori entryway area with a small chair or bench for putting their shoes and jacket on. 

Purposeful Work 

Aside from their toys and activities that offer purposeful work, there are a lot of different ways that household tasks lend themselves to purposeful work, even for a 12-month-old. At this stage, they may only do a fraction of what you are doing, but that is okay, that is where practical life skills begin to be developed. Here is how purposeful work has looked at 12 months with our twins. 

Laundry

They can help pull the clean clothes out of the dryer when I pull them up out of the drum of the dryer onto the door. They can be near me while I fold laundry, they may take a few items and play with them, or unfold a few things as well. The buttons on the washing machine are now within reach, so I direct them on which button to push when it is time to start a load of laundry. 

Meal Time

Meal time offers a slew of purposeful work opportunities. A 12-month-old baby can continue to practice drinking from an open cup as well as using silverware. When they spill water, invite them to help you clean up the spill by patting the towel to dry up the water. Eating in and of itself is sensory play with all the different textures they expereince with new foods.

Food Work

You can show your baby how to peel a banana. I have done this two ways. One is to peel the banana as you normally would and show them how to pull the peel down. You could also cut the banana into thick slices and then cut a slit into part of the peel. Show your baby how to peel the peel off to get the banana. 

When there are tasks, like spreading butter on bread or cutting up some food, in which they cannot help me. I like to do that work in front of them at the table so they can watch me do it. Their absorbent minds are taking in so much that even just watching us can be beneficial for them. 

Dishwasher

Another way your baby could help you is by handing you things from the dishwasher. This will be easier for a standing baby, but my boys who are pulling to stand but not yet standing for a long time enjoy doing this. Show them how to hand you something. This can be a great time together moving slowly.

Gross Motor Activities

Gross motor skills at 12 months old likely look like your baby standing with knees bent and cruising along furniture. They can squat down to pick something up while holding onto furniture. They love to push things like a walker wagon or chair. You’ll see them traveling from one piece of furniture to another. They may even be walking! Here are some things you can have in your environment to support the development of gross motor skills.

Climbing Triangle 

It is the perfect time to introduce a climbing triangle. A Montessori environment allows for freedom of movement and a Pikler triangle is the perfect way for a small child to start to explore what their body is capable of. Allow your child to explore to their comfort level. Don’t put them up onto the climbing tringle before they can do it for themselves. You will see that they are very aware of how their body is moving and will explore at their own pace.

Wooden Montessori climbing triangle

Walker Wagon 

A walker wagon was a first birthday gift for our twins and there couldn’t have been a more perfect gift! This wagon is very durable and doesn’t tip easily. You can remove some of the sides which creates a very fun expereince climbing in and out of the wagon. 

Walker wagon

Balls

Have a basket of balls for your baby to roll or toss. Naturally, balls promote movement and are a simple activity but so much fun. 

basket of textured sensory balls

Floor Bed

A floor bed is a more unconventional way to think of supporting gross motor activities in babies. However, by using a floor bed in a safe environment we can offer freedom of movement which will support the natural progression of gross motor development in our babies.

Conclusion

Through shelf work, everyday tasks, and lots of connection with you, the prepared adult, we can offer a rich experience for our baby. Any of these toys or activities would be a fun addition to your home environment and be so beneficial for your sweet baby. 

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